Primary Source • A primary source is first-hand information from a person who witnessed or participated in an event. It may also be scientific data, statistics, or an official transcript of a government proceeding.
Quick Activity… • Take a "mind walk" through all the activities you were involved in during the past 24 hours. • List as many of these activities as you can remember.
From your “Mind Walk” Emerges Historical Evidence in Your Daily Life • Did you create any records of your activities (a diary, notes to yourself, a letter to a friend or relative, an e-mail message, a telephone message)? • Would traces of your activities appear in records someone else created (a friend's diary, notes, or calendar entry; a letter or e-mail from a friend or relative)? • Would traces of your activities appear in school records? in business records (did you write a check or use a charge card)? in the school or local newspaper? in government records (did you get your driver's license or go to traffic court)? • Would anyone be able to offer testimony (or oral history) about your activities (who and why)?
Other Types of Historical Evidence • Other aspects of the historical record are not records at all, but may still offer evidence about our lives. Traces you left behind in your daily activities might include: • The trash you have thrown away; • Material objects you use every day (coins, paper money, stamps, computers); • Objects in the place you live (especially in your own bedroom); and • Items in your locker at school.
What to Think About • When analyzing primary sources, historians consider the type of primary source under study. Different primary sources were created for different reasons. Knowing the different types of primary sources will help you evaluate the reliability of primary sources. Read about the different types of primary sources below.
Types of Primary Sources • Diaries, memoirs, letters • Official documents and records • Original manuscripts • Period newspapers • Legal cases, transcripts, minutes, hearings • Interviews, oral histories, personal narratives • Research data and reports • Statistics
Published Documents • Some primary sources are published documents. They were created for large audiences and were distributed widely. Published documents include books, magazines, newspapers, government documents, non-government reports, literature of all kinds, advertisements, maps, pamphlets, posters, laws, and court decisions. • When reviewing published documents, remember that just because something was published does not make it truthful, accurate, or reliable. Every document has a creator, and every creator has a point of view, blind spots, and biases. Also remember that even biased and opinionated sources can tell us important things about the past.
Unpublished Documents • Many types of unpublished documents have been saved, and can be used as primary sources. These include personal letters, diaries, journals, wills, deeds, family Bibles containing family histories, school report cards, and many other sources. Unpublished business records such as correspondence, financial ledgers, information about customers, board meeting minutes, and research and development files also give clues about the past. • Unpublished documents often come from community organizations, churches, service clubs, political parties, and labor unions in the form of membership lists, meeting minutes, speeches, financial and other records. Government at all levels creates a variety of unpublished records. These include police and court records, census records, tax and voter lists, departmental reports, and classified documents.
Oral Traditions/Oral Histories • Oral traditions and oral histories provide another way to learn about the past from people with firsthand knowledge of historical events. Recently, spoken words that make up oral histories have gained importance as primary sources. Historians and others find out about the lives of ordinary people through spoken stories and tales. Oral histories provide important historical evidence about people, especially minority groups, who were excluded from mainstream publications or did not leave behind written primary sources. • Oral histories are as old as human beings. Before the invention of writing, information passed from generation to generation through the spoken word. Many people around the world continue to use oral traditions to pass along knowledge and wisdom. Interviews and recordings of community elders and witnesses to historical events provide exciting stories, anecdotes, and other information about the past.
Visual Documents & Photographs • Visual documents include photographs, films, paintings, and other types of artwork. Because visual documents capture moments in time, they can provide evidence of changes over time. Visual documents include evidence about a culture at specific moments in history: its customs, preferences, styles, special occasions, work, and play. • Like other primary source documents, a visual document has a creator with a point of view -- such as a painter, sculptor, or film maker. Even photographs were created by photographers using film and cameras to create desired effects.
Judge the Quality of Resources: • Who created the source and why? Was it created through a spur-of-the-moment act, a routine transaction, or a thoughtful, deliberate process? • Did the recorder have firsthand knowledge of the event? Or, did the recorder report what others saw and heard? • Was the recorder a neutral party, or did the creator have opinions or interests that might have influenced what was recorded? • Did the recorder produce the source for personal use, for one or more individuals, or for a large audience? • Was the source meant to be public or private? • Did the recorder wish to inform or persuade others? (Check the words in the source. The words may tell you whether the recorder was trying to be objective or persuasive.) Did the recorder have reasons to be honest or dishonest? • Was the information recorded during the event, immediately after the event, or after some lapse of time? How large a lapse of time?
To locate primary sources in the library: • Do background reading in a specialized encyclopedia for your place/time period to locate key names, vocabulary or events. • Search the Library Catalog by Keyword, using a primary source format word as one term and an event or person as another term. Truncating the format word is helpful to obtain both singular and plural: • letter* and Lincolnsoldiar* and Civil War • Find primary sources in the footnotes and bibliographies of secondary source books and articles. • Browse the shelves in your subject area. • To locate research data and reports in the sciences and social sciences, use one of the subject specific databases or indexes for that discipline. • Consult a reference librarian for assistance
Secondary Source • A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them.
Types of Secondary Sources • PUBLICATIONS: Textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias • A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings • A history textbook • A book about the effects of WWI
Tertiary Source • A Tertiary source consists of information which is a distillation and collection of primary and secondary sources.
Types of Tertiary Sources • Almanacs • Bibliographies (also considered secondary) • Chronologies • Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (also considered secondary) • Directories • Fact books • Guidebooks • Indexes, abstracts, bibliographies used to locate primary and secondary sources • Manuals • Textbooks (also be secondary)
Using School Rooms • http://d11.schoolrooms.net/rooms/portal/page/Sirsi_HOME.psml?action=SetUserProfile¤tSetting=coronado&originSetting=coronado
Web Sites Cited • http://www.cbbnet.org/teaching/sources.html • http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/ • http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/psources/pshome.html • http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/psources/slavpho2.html • http://www.princeton.edu/~refdesk/primary2.html • http://www.lib.umd.edu/guides/primary-sources.html#primary